India has approved a $2.4 billion contest to acquire 56 transports to replace the air force's Hindustan Aeronautics-built Hawker Siddeley HS 748s, setting the stage for a possible showdown between the Airbus Military C295 and Alenia Aermacchi C-27J.
The planned acquisition was approved on 23 July by India's Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), says the country's defence ministry. Headed by defence minister AK Antony, the DAC oversees the military's entire acquisition process.
The ministry was unable to state when a request for proposals will be issued for the requirement. Industry sources, however, have said this could occur before the end of 2012.
In late March, industry sources attending the Defexpo 2012 show in New Delhi provided Flightglobal with details of the requirement.
Mark Mansfield/Airbus Military (top) Alenia Aermacchi (above)
Candidates for the 56-aircraft deal will include the C295 (top) and C-27J (above)
Based on a request for information issued in 2010, 16 aircraft will be obtained in a flyaway condition, and 40 produced under licence in India. One source said the programme will represent a major first, with licensed production of the aircraft to be farmed out to a private sector company, and not HAL.
While India has yet to produce a major private sector airframer, a number of the country's large industrial conglomerates, such as Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata have been steadily building up their aerospace units in recent years.
India could require that the first aircraft be delivered within two years of a contract signing, with the next 15 to follow within a further 24 months. A one-year pause would ensue, followed by the remaining 40 aircraft being produced in India at a rate of eight per year.
At the Defexpo show, Airbus Military representatives highlighted the C295's role as the workhorse of several air forces. Alenia Aermacchi stressed the C-27J's commonality with the Lockheed Martin C-130J; a type that entered Indian air force service in 2011.